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Melissa Schlegel: Using Map Your Hazards! in Natural Disasters and Environmental Geology at the College of Western Idaho

About this Course

An introductory geology natural hazards course.

17–32
students

Two 75-minute lecture
sessions
One 105-minute lab
weekly
Community college

Syllabus for first pilot (Microsoft Word 117kB Jul1 14)
Syllabus for second pilot (Microsoft Word 120kB Jul1 14)

A Success Story in Building Student Engagement

My course is an introductory geology natural hazards course, which has been previously taught using lecture, discussion, laboratory exercises, a field trip and exams. Though the course is usually engaging to most of the students, the Map Your Hazards! Module applied key concepts about natural hazards to our community. These concepts included knowledge, preparation, and identifying risk of natural hazards. Students were surprised to see the location of high-risk areas, and enjoyed imagining areas that would be "toasted" if a severe hazard did occur. In addition, students were excited to form and investigate research questions with data that they collected from their friends and family in the local community, and were amazed at the general lack of knowledge, preparedness and risk perception of natural hazards in our community.

As students synthesized the risk map and survey data to make preparedness recommendations for a particular stakeholder, many students voiced unsolicited ideas (such as making and distributing pamphlets) on how to disseminate the information and recommendations from the Map Your Hazards! Module to actual stakeholders in our community, which demonstrated their excitement about the module and that they understood the impact natural hazards can have on our communities!

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials

I modified the module materials for both pilot courses by 1) assigning different point values for assignments, 2) taking more time in class for group assignments, 3) making the module entirely group work, and 4) skipping some of the instructional PowerPoint presentations (like the US Hazard Maps in favor of the local Ada County Hazard Vulnerability Analysis).

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to My Course

In the first module pilot I taught the module during the last two and a half weeks of lecture of the 15-week course (5 lecture sessions). We completed Unit 1 (creating the risk map) over two lecture sessions, Unit 2 (survey data analysis) over one and a half lecture sessions, and Unit 3 (preparation and presentations) over one and a half lecture sessions.

In the second module pilot I taught the module during six laboratory sessions over the 15-week course. We completed Unit 1 (creating the risk map) over two lab sessions near the beginning of the course, Unit 2 (survey data analysis) over two laboratory sessions near the middle of the course, and Unit 3 (preparation and presentations) over two laboratory sessions at the end of the course.

Topics introduced as part of the course but also used in the module included natural hazards, natural disasters and catastrophes, risk, and preparedness and mitigation.

In both pilots, the module was often informally referenced by me and occasionally by students to highlight the relevance of a topic covered in lecture or laboratory session. These references often occurred when we discussed personal and community preparedness for specific hazards. A lot of preparedness seems common sense (like do not buy houses built in a flood plain, or pull off the highway as far as you can in a hail storm), but we often referenced the survey and the hazard mapping to prove that many educated people are not prepared to handle common local natural hazards (so take the information seriously and it may save your life!).

Assessments

I gave students the rubrics before they started the assignments. Students thought the module assessments were fair and easy to understand. For the second module pilot each unit rubric was modified to total 20 points (80 points for the entire module) because each laboratory session was worth 20 points.

Assessments description:

  • Pre-module Assessment (included in Unit 1 Rubric): Multiple-choice quiz for students to demonstrate their understanding of natural hazards, vulnerability, and risk perception at the beginning of the module.
  • Unit 1 Rubric: Used to grade student understanding of location of natural hazards and community vulnerabilities as related to levels of risk for different areas in their communities.
  • Unit 2 Rubric A: Used to grade group understanding of survey data from their graph packet.
  • Unit 2 Rubric B: Used to grade student understanding of survey data from entire graph set.
  • Unit 3 Rubric: Used to grade group application of Units 1 and 2 for a specific stakeholder by making appropriate and reasonable suggestions for increased community preparedness based on locations of higher risk and the survey data.
  • Post-module Assessment (included in Unit 3 Rubric): Multiple-choice and short-answer quiz for students to demonstrate their understanding of natural hazards, vulnerability, and risk perception at the end of the module.
  • Reflection Questions (included in Unit 3 Rubric): Opinion survey about the module to assess the students' experience. (See 'Student Responses' below for results).

Outcomes

I teach a 100-level course at a community college, but sometimes I find that my personal expectations are more fit for a graduate level class. For example, I expected students to 1) become experts in the location of the top three natural hazards in their area, 2) be surprised and excited about the results and implications of the natural hazards perception data they collected from friends and family, and 3) make novel and useful recommendations for improving community preparedness. These expectations are high for an introductory course, but they were met in part by most of my students, which is pretty good!

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »